Red Sox

Nation STATion: Sox revolve around Gonzalez

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Nation STATion: Sox revolve around Gonzalez

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

It all revolves Adrian Gonzalez.

I dont mean, the sun, the moon, and the earth (but they may as well). I mean the success of the Red Sox.

Dont get me wrong, this is not a one-man team, but this is a team whose achievements can be traced to the accomplishments of one man, and that man is Adrian Gonzalez. (Save that last sentence, because if there is any controversy at seasons end as to who the AL MVP is, this should provide the support that is necessary for A-Gon.)

I have great respect for Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, who leads the American League in Wins Above Replacement at 4.6, but his presence in the Toronto lineup is minimal compared to that of Gonzalez, who is second in the league with a 3.6.

I respect the fact that Adrian barely leads Jose in the batting race, .341 to .338 and Bautista leads the league in OPS (On-base Slugging) at 1.190, over David Ortiz who is second at 1.019 (Gonzalez at .977 is fourth in the league, also trailing Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers who has a 1.004 OPS). But, the Toronto Blue Jays are under .500 at 32-34 while the Sox, and Gonzalez, have played 65 games and their 39-26 (.600) record heading into Tuesday night's game is only exceeded by the 40-26 Phillies (.606).

The Sox are a team reliant on hitting, because truth be told, their pitching is mediocre. The full staff has the eighth-best ERA in the league at 4.08. The starters and relievers ERA strangely are the same at 4.08 and both are only good for the ninth in the league, so its clearly the Sox bats that have led them to the top.

The Red Sox are first in the A.L. in runs, hits, doubles, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS, and their leader has been A-Gon. You do not need to be a stats maven to appreciate the numbers of Gonzalez. A quick look shows that he leads the A.L. with 91 hits, 22 doubles, 37 extra-base hits (tied with the ChiSox Carlos Quentin), 156 total bases, and most importantly, 60 RBI.

We were pleased when on May 7 he was hitting .303, but in the five weeks since that date he has hit .374 with 10 of his 13 homers (oh, did I neglect his power?) and 38 RBI. His presence in the lineup, particularly with runners on base, has a dramatic effect on every game.

Looking for a delicious stat? (For the newly initiated to Nation STATion, those are numbers that are so yummy that I gain weight thinking about them.) Try this: Gonzalez is hitting .310 with no one on base; with men on, hes hitting .369; with men in scoring position, hes hitting .376; and with men in scoring position and two outs, hes hitting .405.

So what is the Gonzalez influence?

The consistency of Gonzalez means that the pressure is off another member of the lineup who might be slumping or experiencing highs and lows. Take Dustin Pedroia, who has scuffled all season. His .262 average is far below the .305 lifetime average he had entering the season. But Pedey is protecting the plate for Jacoby Ellsbury, who has stolen a league-leading 24 bases and has scored 49 runs, driven in 18 times by Gonzalez.

You cant help but appreciate the confidence exhibited by Ellsbury as hes regained his role as a premier lead-off batter after a washed-out 2010. Ellsbury, the current AL Player of the Week, had an OBP of .294 on April 26 as he was hitting .221. Hes played 44 games since then and hit .356, with an OBP of .407 with 19 stolen bases and, most importantly, 37 runs scored. His season-long OBP is .376.

On the other end of the lineup, the Sox, thanks to Gonzalez and Big Papi, have been able to be patient with Jarrod Saltalamacchia who, since May 5, has raised his average from .194 to .252 by hitting .289 with five homers and 32 RBI.

The same is true for Carl Crawford, who returned to his baseball roots in Tampa on Tuesday. Had he gone on May 5, the fans would show no regret over his departure as he was hitting .197. Since that date, hes hit .290, with an .805 OPS and raised his average to a not embarrassing .246.

Thanks to Kevin Youkilis and, particularly Ortiz, pitchers cant and dont issue a lot of walks to Gonzalez. He only has received 22 so far this season which is same as the As Josh Willingham who is hitting .235. But when on May 9, Papi was hitting .280 with four homers, everyone in Red Sox Nation was content. Since that date, Ortiz has hit .355 with 13 homers and 27 RBI and Gonzalez has hit .369 with nine homers and 36 RBI. Oh, and the Sox were 17-18 on May 9 and since have gone 22-8.

Look up at the standings, or in the sky, and you will see it all revolves around the magnificent Gonzalez.

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.